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Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK
Q&A: Gujarat siege
A siege by unidentified gunmen of a Hindu temple in Gujarat which left nearly 30 people dead, has once again raised fears that the state could be pushed into a cycle of religious violence.

Gujarat has been on a knife edge since earlier this year when more than 1,000 people were killed in months of religious clashes.

BBC News Online's Jyotsna Singh looks at some of the key concerns arising out of the latest attack

Who was behind the incident?

No militant group has claimed responsibility, but the Indian authorities say they have recovered a letter from the dead militants, which referred to a group called Tehrik-e-Qassas (the Group for Revenge) to be behind it.

India's Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani and Gujarat's Chief Minister Narendra Modi have blamed it on Pakistan.

Pakistan has condemned the killing and rejected India's allegations.

Akshardham temple
Security has been increased around religious buildings

India has repeatedly alleged that Pakistan supports extremist attacks in India.

But some observers believe pointing the finger at Pakistan may also be a tactical move by India to avoid any backlash against local Muslims.

What makes the latest attack unprecedented?

Militant attacks are not new to India, particularly in the north-eastern region and Indian-administered Kashmir.

But this is the first time a such a prominent religious site has been made the target.

The nearest equivalent to Tuesday's incident can be found in an attack outside the Raghunath temple in Jammu a few months ago.

The main worry of the authorities seems to be to prevent militant attacks on other religious venues, attacks which are likely to provoke a stronger reaction from the people.

Why is security being strengthened across the country?

The Indian Government is treating the incident as one of the most daring militant attacks outside Indian-administered Kashmir.

Observers say the incident has jolted the Indian authorities out of their complacency and they may now be realising that it would be a mistake to consider any part of the country as secure.

Hindu hardliners at a rally
The authorities have appealed for calm
Nearly 3,000 security personnel have been deployed in many sensitive areas of Gujarat.

Several states - including Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal - have been put on a heightened state of security alert.

Security has also been increased at many other religious sites.

Is Gujarat being targeted?

There are no easy answers to this except that the state has been through a cycle of violence for months starting last February.

Thousands of Muslims are still living in refugee camps.

They fled their homes when Hindus began a series of revenge attacks after a Muslim mob was blamed for killing Hindu activists by setting a train on fire.

Independent estimates say that as many as 2,000 people may have died.

And the state and central government - both led by the Hindu nationalist BJP - were accused of not doing enough to prevent the violence.

An attempt by the BJP to hold early state elections was questioned by the government's critics who accused it of trying to take advantage of a polarisation of Hindu votes following the religious clashes.

But the state chief minister - earlier criticised for not doing enough to control the rioting - was swift to appeal for calm this time.

He said he would think about elections later as the priority at the moment was to maintain peace and harmony.

Why is Gujarat so prone to violence?

Gujarat is no stranger to communal violence.

It witnessed some of the worst religious riots in 1969 and in 1985.

The state has traditionally enjoyed the reputation of being one of India's most prosperous states.

It saw rapid economic and industrial growth in the 1960s and the 1970s attracting a large influx of people from other states bringing new challenges to the peaceful co-existence of people of different cultures.

Economic recession in the 1980s leading to the closure of some of the textile mills made things worse.

But many believe it is the rise of Hindu nationalists which seems to have created a stronger religious divide.

A movement to build a Hindu temple in Ayodhya in northern India in the late 1980s saw the resurgence of the BJP in the state which took power there in 1995.

The BJP, which is also in control of India's central government, has ruled the state for all but one and a half years since then.

Analysts believe the ascendance of the Hindu nationalists has led to insecurity among the minority religious communities - such as the Muslims and Christians.

But opponents of the Hindu nationalist trend say pluralism is a reality in India and the country's secular democracy means that different faiths should be able live together.

Gujarat conflict in-depth

Key vote

Tense state

Background

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